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How Sex Addiction Almost Ruined My Life

March 31st, 2015

photo via flickr

Brian Whitney is a recovering sex addict and the author of the book Raping the Gods: A Tale of Sex and Madness, available at Amazon now. Today on EMandLO.com, he shares the story of how rehab helped him move past his sex addiction:

I don’t like calling myself a sex addict. When people hear that term, most of them tend to have one of three reactions.

Some people think sex addiction doesn’t exist, that it is just a made-up term to excuse bad behavior. A second group thinks that a sex addict is a crazy, out-of-control freak who thinks of nothing but getting laid every second of every day. The third group thinks it sounds fun: “What are you complaining about, man? You get laid all the time and you think it’s a problem?”

I was always different sexually, and it was a problem from a very early age. Of course I didn’t think of myself as an “addict” for quite a while — that took a few decades of my life being a disaster. I could tell a lot stories about what I was doing, but I’d rather just say I was really screwed up. My major issue was infidelity. I was often involved in three or four different relationships at once. I got an enormous rush from having multiple sexual partners and lying to all of them. This wasn’t about sex, although I did enjoy that; it was about control and power.

At one point I was married, having sex with three women at work, and telling two of them I loved them. To you that might seem horrible, or it might seem exciting. I don’t know. To me it was like walking around electrified, all day, and all night long. I would have sex with at least two women a day, sometimes four, and when I found time in between, I would beat off. It was a wild ride.

It might go without saying, but this caused problems in my life. I had numerous opportunities to stop taking this scene further, but I kept pushing it to the bitter end.

And that is where what the professionals call the “addiction” part comes in. I did things sexually, over and over again, that completely fucked up my life. Acting in the way I did gave me a huge rush, an enormous shot of dopamine.  Later, I would feel shame, depression and anxiety over my actions, and the only thing that would make me feel okay again was the rush I got from doing crazy shit sexually all over again.

And I couldn’t stop. No matter what happened, no matter how bad things got, even when I lost marriages and then homes because of my infidelity. I could never keep a job because of my sexual behavior. Instead of stopping, I was getting further into it, going into darker and more depraved places.

To many people, the thought of going to rehab for such a thing still seems bizarre. It seemed bizarre to me, but I went anyway, because what else could I do? But I didn’t want to do inpatient. Being locked up with twenty other guys like me for thirty days sounded like hell. So I chose a place in Los Angeles that did intensive outpatient work: I would stay in a hotel for two weeks, attend groups and individual counseling all day, go to Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings at night, and after two weeks I would come home, cured.

Just taking that step was dramatic. When you fly across the country and spend thousands of dollars to get help, there is no pretending anymore. The days of rationalizing my behavior as merely hedonistic were over.

They tried to integrate our families, girlfriends, ex-wives, and so on. At the end of the second week they all flew out, to meet with us and see how we had progressed. The answer to that question, at least when it came to me, was “not much.” You can’t change a lifetime of compulsive behavior by hanging out in L.A. for two weeks, going to groups in the day, and eating sushi at night with a bunch of other addicts.

Though my behavior seemed under control, my thoughts, fantasies, and impulses remained the same ones that had been roiling my brain for the last thirty years. Naively, I had thought that after two weeks of treatment they would be gone. But the only difference was that now, when I did something, I really felt like shit about it. At the end of two weeks it was obvious I wasn’t ready to deal with real life yet. So it was off to Philadelphia for a month of inpatient.

This was an entirely different scene: It looked and smelled gritty. This wasn’t a pretty place in Arizona where we climbed mountains and did equine therapy. It was in a shithole. We had to go to bed at a certain time, we slept on crappy beds, we couldn’t leave the facility, we had roommates. It was like a minimum security prison for people who did weird things.

The people were different here as well. Their problems were more serious. My roomie was straight out of jail for exhibitionism. There was a former NBA player who had the same problem; he had just come from prison, too. There was also a millionaire who had slept with thousands of people, from anonymous guys in subway bathrooms to beautiful female models. And a male nurse who went to sex clubs and screwed ten guys a night. It was hardcore.

I hated it there; it made me uncomfortable. I did things I didn’t want to do and dealt with issues I didn’t want to face, but, in the end, I did begin to change. I stopped having affairs and acting out in other ways, and I went on with my life. I got back together with a woman I cared about.

That was seven years ago. It is still a struggle of course. I am still me, I still get turned on by the same things. It isn’t that I don’t have sex anymore. I do, and I still have the same kinks. Writing about it helps. I recently wrote a book called Raping the Gods that tells the story of an out-of-control sex addict.

In my 40s now, I feel different and, dare I say, better. Over the past year or so there has been some change. I don’t hate myself so much. I keep the darkness off to the side. I just stay honest with people in my life and let them know who I am. And I don’t cheat on my partner. The thought of doing the things I used to do is thankfully no longer a turn on.

Brian Whitney is the author of Raping the Gods: A Tale of Sex and Madness, available at Amazon now.

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What Men Really Think About Dating Older Women

March 31st, 2015

Advice from three of our guy friends. This week a straight woman asks, “What do men in general think about dating older women, or cougars?”

Straight Married Guy (Jim): The cougar seems like a largely positive stereotype and I’m all for it.  However, the importance of not dressing like you just chalked your first ID cannot be overstated.  That makes me sad.

Straight Single Guy (Tyler Barnett): The cougar is a bit of an anomaly to me. On the one hand, cougars have experience, confidence and generally pleasing physical attributes, all of which are very attractive characteristics. On the flip side, they can be difficult to please and tend to try too hard. Personally, I find confidence attractive, but a truly attractive woman doesn’t have to try so hard to be sexy. So cougars aren’t generally my thing. But every now and again I’ll run into that mature woman who looks me in the eyes like she’s ready to pounce…and I hope she does. I think the trick to the sexy cougar is subtlety. If you can pull off a look 20 years below your age without appearing like it took you 20 years in the mirror to accomplish, you have  mastered cougar purrfection. Grrr baby, very grrr.

Gay Single Guy (Jay Dyckman):

“I am Cougar, hear me roar,
In years too big to ignore…”

If it isn’t already, this should be the anthem for the beloved cougar.  Prowl on, ladies! Honestly, what’s the big deal?  OK, so maybe it is a sexual desire fueled largely out of a denial that one is rapidly aging off this mortal coil. We’re all headed there anyway, aren’t we?  Why not grab a little nubile ass on the way out? The fact that, all these years later, we are still referring to older women as cougars, tells us that (1) we’re very attached to weird monikers for sexually-active women (see MILF); and (2) this country still has a problem with casual sex as it relates to women.

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Our “wise guys” are a rotating group of contributors, some of whom wish to remain anonymous and some of whom like the attention. This week’s Straight Married Guy is Jim from New York, our Gay Guy is Jay Dyckman, an LA copywriter, and our Single Straight Guy is Tyler Barnett, owner of the LA PR firm Barnett Ellman. To ask the guys your own question, click here.

Interesting Kickstarter: A Documentary on an Alternative Love Model

March 31st, 2015

Filmmakers Ian MacKenzie and John Wolfstone are challenging what they call “the myth of the one” by profiling a group in Portugal called Tamera, a “free love” community dedicated to “social sustainability” and a “future without war” by making all matters of love and sexuality within a community completely transparent. Check out their impressive pitch video:

The filmmakers will be going to Tamera’s annual Global Love School in May to “capture and translate Tamera’s systems on love & partnership for a wider audience.” Principle photography will be completed at Tamera, followed by post-production this summer, for a wide-release of the short film in September, which will coincide with the North American release of the book “Terra Nova: Global Revolution and the Healing of Love” from Tamera’s co-founder Dieter Duhm. (Tamera started as a small group in Germany in the 1970s, natch).

To do this, they’re looking for 21K. For as little as $5 bucks you can get your name in the ending credits! You’ve got until April 26th to help spread the love.

 

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Your Call: Why Did He Break Up with Me?

March 30th, 2015

The “beyond my control” breakup scene in the film Dangerous Liasons

We get a lot of questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to respond to a reader. Make your call on the letter below by leaving your thoughts in the comments section. 

Dear Em & Lo,

I’ve been in a 15-year relationship with a man that I love. We had broken up many times in between but we always came back to one another. We have a connection. I recently found out that I am sick and he left me right before I was to have surgery. He said he didn’t want to leave me but he felt that we were just not right for each other anymore. We disagreed on several family related issues but he never vocalized that he would leave me because of them. He even used to tell me that I would get over the issues when we got married. I then found out that he has been seeing this new girl and that she is supposedly the right one for him to start his life with and get married to. He claims he really likes her but she is not even his type. He says she is a family person like him. It’s only been four months since we broke up. He tells me he still loves me but that he has to move on in life. I don’t understand what is going on. Any advice would be so great right now. 

– Sick & Single

What do you think S&S should do? Leave your suggestions for her in the comments section below. 

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Your Weekly Horoscopes: March 30th, 2015

March 30th, 2015

photo by Simply Schmoopie

Each week, we at EMandLO.com predict the course of your love life for the week with our own version of irreverent horoscopes — ignore our advice at your own peril. (Hyperbole intended for dramatic effect.)

aries (Mar. 21st-Apr. 20th)
This week, your sex drive and your sexual opportunties will be completely in sync. Don’t you just love it when that happens?

taurus (Apr. 21st-May 20th)
If you can share your intellectual dreams with someone, they may be The One. If you can only bear to talk to them for more than an hour at a time, they might do nicely for a spring fling.

gemini (May 21st-June 21st)
Put on the full-body armor: Someone is about to take you for a ride and then throw you out to the sidewalk without slowing down.

cancer (June 22nd-July 22nd)
The spotlight will flatter you this week, so do whatever it takes to get into it. (Doing “The Tuck” à la The Silence of the Lambs at parties does not count.)

leo (July 23rd-Aug. 22nd)
I can’t hear you! Na na na na na na! I’m not listening! . . . Get used to it: You’re going to be hearing that a lot this week.

virgo (Aug. 23rd-Sept. 22nd)
One of your friends is teetering on the more-than-friends line. One little breeze and it’ll be all over — you’ll have a low-grade stalker on your hands. Don’t fall for the attention.

libra (Sept. 23rd-Oct. 23rd)
If there was a recommended daily allowance of sexual energy, then you’d be eating fifteen bowls a day of Booty Flakes this week. Don’t O.D.

scorpio (Oct. 24th-Nov. 22nd)
Commitment is catching up to you fast. Put on your running shoes if you don’t want to get bit in the ass (though ass-biting is an oft underrated pleasure).

sagittarius (Nov. 23rd-Dec. 21st)
You may feel like you have more than enough lovin’ to go around, but your partners won’t always agree. Make sure everyone’s in the loop before you start being an oversharer.

capricorn (Dec. 22nd-Jan. 20th)
Finally! This week you’ll actually make a mental connection with someone you’re getting busy with. So you might want to stick around for cuddle time for a change.

aquarius (Jan. 21st-Feb. 18th)
You’ll be in the driver’s seat all week. And you may well receive head from the hottie in the passenger seat. Sometimes, life’s just that simple.

pisces (Feb. 19th-Mar. 20th)
Confucious say, He who talks too much eats shoe before too long.

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Why You Have to Tell Your Partner If You Have HPV

March 27th, 2015


 photo via flickr

Many experts, including doctors, will tell women that they don’t need to inform their male partners if they have HPV. The reason given is that 80% of sexually-active adults have or will acquire HPV — in other words, basically everyone — and also, the virus is much less likely to harm a guy’s health.

Our own medical expert, Dr. Kate, happens to disagree, and you can read her professional explanation here. And our man-parts doctor also has something to say about men and HPV — it’s not guaranteed smooth sailing.

And we happen to disagree too! Here’s our laywomen’s response to why you should fess up if you have HPV:

Everyone has the right to know what they’re getting into when they’re getting into bed with you. It doesn’t matter how pervasive an STD is, how inconsequential it might turn out to be, or how likely it is that you’ll eventually get it (or that you already have it) — everyone deserves to know the truth. So if you know you’ve got something, you’ve got to come clean (as it were). Fucking is not a right, it’s a privilege, and you’ve got to earn that privilege via honest communication about your bod and where it’s been. We’re pretty sure any one of the New York Times ethicists would have our back on this.

If more people fessed up to their sexual health status, then we’d all know a little more about the pervasive STDs that affect us — and probably not be so freaked out. Knowledge is power, and power is sexy. The more we all talk about it, the more it will become clear that it’s not only dirty, promiscuous, evil people who get STDs (such a tired yet stubborn cliche) — many totally cool, super nice and very good-looking people get sexually transmitted infections, too.

Unfortunately, honest communication isn’t always the quickest route to sex or even love. So people get scared into concealing an STD out of fear of loneliness (or horniness). Don’t fall into this trap: Even though it doesn’t feel like it when you first get diagnosed with something, you will have sex again. You will fall in love and you’ll probably get married, have a couple kids, the whole nine.

And please, if any of you happen to be on the receiving end of a conversation like this, be cool about it. Honest Abes should be rewarded for their behavior — not with unprotected genital-to-genital contact, natch, but at least with a polite, considerate, and sympathetic response. Of course, it’s your right to walk away (just don’t run). But know this: Many STDs are either curable, or at least manageable. So if you choose to turn your back, you could be turning it on your one true soulmate and walking into a future of eternal solitude.

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An Open Marriage Can’t Fix Something That’s Already Broken

March 26th, 2015

A new memoir called The Wild Oats Project: One Woman’s Midlife Quest for Passion At Any Cost is giving a lot of committed monogamists the chance to say “I told you so!” about open marriage.

Here’s the book in a nutshell: San Francisco-based magazine editor Robin Rinaldi felt like her marriage was in a rut, and convinced her husband to open their marriage for a year in an effort to save it. He said okay, and she went on to sleep with eight men and two women in a year, while he had a lengthy affair with just one woman. Then, soon after she returned to him, they decided to divorce. It turned out she’d fallen in love with one of those eight men, and she’s now married to him. It’s like a morality tale for the Nerve.com generation!

Except that what Robin and her husband were going through was a little more intense than a rut. Here’s Rinaldi writing in the New York Post:

Stuck in a rut — our once-a-week sex life was loving, but lacked spontaneity and passion — I was craving seduction and sexual abandon. I was having a midlife crisis and chasing this profound, deeply rooted experience of being female.

Before then, starting a family had felt like one route to this elusive state of feminine fulfillment. But Scott had made it absolutely clear he never wanted a baby, and even had a vasectomy.

I broke the news to Scott that I wanted an open marriage in early 2008, a few months after his vasectomy. “I won’t go to my grave with no children and four lovers,” I told him repeatedly. “I refuse.” [She'd had only three partners before marrying at 26.]

In other words, “once-a-week sex [that] was loving, but lacked spontaneity and passion” wasn’t even close to being the whole story. The inspiration for opening their marriage sprung more from a kind of deeply emotional and fraught tit-for-tat: If you won’t give me children, then you have to give me more sexual freedom. We’re not saying that this is a bad reason to want to open your marriage, — her reasoning actually makes complete sense to us — but the fact that Robin Rinaldi’s experiment failed to save her troubled marriage shouldn’t be considered a failure of open marriages in general.

Open marriages may very well be able to get you out of a rut — if that’s all you’re experiencing. Of course, as The Wild Oats Project demonstrates all too clearly, the risk you take when opening your marriage is that one of you will fall in love with one of the pinch hitters. (Rinaldi limited herself to three dates per partner, to keep things light and casual, but who hasn’t fallen in love within three dates before?!)

But what open marriage can’t fix is a marriage that is broken because one partner wanted children and the other didn’t. It’s the reason that most people discuss this subject before getting married, after all. Here’s Rinaldi talking about her experiment on British TV:

I got into my early 40s and my husband got a vasectomy and I knew the discussion of having a baby was over, which kick-started this experience. I looked forward to my death bed and thought, What will I have? I won’t have children and grandchildren. Will I at least have lived fully? If I couldn’t have one I wanted the other. Like a lot of women at that age I was hitting my confidence and sexual peak and suddenly realized very dramatically that I wasn’t going to have children. It was the perfect storm.

So, sure, maybe Rinaldi’s marriage wouldn’t have ended if she hadn’t opened her marriage — but then she would have been trapped in a marriage that had a lot more wrong with it than lackluster sex once a week. And you can’t blame the swingers for that!

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Why I Won’t Ever Regret Getting My Tubes Tied at 28

March 26th, 2015

by Chelsea Hottovy for YourTango  |  photo via flickr

What I want is to be happy.

I’m often told that I’d make a good mother. Depending on my relationship with the person making this wildly incorrect statement, I have one of two reactions: either a small, insincere smile and a “mmmm” response that does not invite further discussion or a hearty laugh followed by a firm “NO.”

Don’t get me wrong: I love kids. They’re hilarious, they’re adorable, and I (mostly) enjoy spending time with them. But without a doubt, I do not want them. And here’s why.

I don’t want to worry about diaper rash and “tummy time” and I don’t want to know what colic is.

I don’t want to put a kid on a Kindergarten waiting list and I don’t want to decide between public and private education. I don’t want to coordinate basketball practice drop-off with ballet lessons pick-up, I don’t want to help with trigonometry and darling, I will not deal with your teenage angst because you best believe I invented that sh*t. I’d rather have bamboo shoots shoved under my fingernails than try to figure out how to pay for my child’s college while I still owe roughly twelve kajillion dollars for my own degree. I’ve more than once done something “just to tell the grandkids about it,” but I never actually planned on there being any grandkids.

It amuses me to tell people I don’t want children because no one ever quite knows how to respond. I’ve gotten “Well, when you meet the right guy, you’ll change your mind,” which is basically suggesting I’m incapable of making decisions regarding my own life without consulting a nameless, faceless FutureMan and is, by the way, astonishingly offensive. Others immediately ask what I do for a living, as though my employer holds the key to my womb and has locked it up until I retire. I don’t really consider myself a career-minded kind of girl; I’ve always worked to live, not lived to work.

Two mothers have actually said to me, “I didn’t know what love was before having a baby. You should reconsider.” I’m happy they’re happy now but “not knowing love before kids” is one of the most acutely sad things I’ve ever heard. Occasionally, I get a hearty “F*ck Yeah!” from like-minded women, some of whom will eventually become mothers and some of whom will not. I appreciate the support.

But at this point, it doesn’t matter how much anyone tries to change my mind because the decision’s been made – permanently.

Last October, I spent a wonderful morning with my doctor, during which he performed a tubal ligation on me.

Yep, I got my tubes tied at 28.

I admit that once my doctor agreed to perform the surgery, I had a moment of panic. It immediately crossed my mind that maybe everyone was right and I was wrong and I would wake up at 30 and want a baby more than anything in the world or that maybe my “hard pass” on kids was a rebellion against expectations simply for the sake of a rebellion.

Maybe I would love the complete upheaval of my priorities and schedule and life in general. Shortly after these hysterical thoughts raced through my mind, though, I regained my sanity. I picked a date for the surgery. Done. Tubes tied.

Here’s the thing: I’ve spent years carefully crafting the most amazing life I can.

I’m surrounded by people I love very much, who love me in return. I’m well-educated and well-traveled. I have endless time to learn about things that interest me and to see wonderful things and to meet the greatest people on earth. I leave piles of library books all over my bedroom and plan fabulous trips all over the world. I stay up until 6am watching Sons of Anarchy because I know no small person is relying on me to feed them in a few short hours. I occasionally eat chips and salsa for breakfast and drink beer for dinner and feel no guilt that I’m teaching anyone horrific eating habits. I spend my days finding my bliss, like all the inspirational posters beg of me.

All this being said, I can’t wait to be an auntie. Whenever my friends start popping out kids, I’ll be there with inappropriately loud and expensive presents. I’ll be the aunt who slips them a vodka martini on their 16th birthday and I’ll rant and rail with the best of them whenever they feel slighted by other kids.

And when I’m off for six months teaching SCUBA in Venezuela, I promise to send lovely postcards. 

I get the reasons people want kids. I do. I’m not such a heartless, selfish monster that I’m incapable of understanding the appeal of a small person who loves you unconditionally and relies on you to guide them safely through a scary world. Parents are brave and strong and incredible people. But so are astronauts and brain surgeons and I don’t want to be those things, either.

What I want is to be happy.

And I’m doing that. I’m there, I’m living that dream. I’m happiest not being a mom, but hey … call me if you need a babysitter. I’m great in a pinch.

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In Defense of Sex Toys, Feminism and Trolls

March 25th, 2015

For the most part, we tend to ignore the trolls. But every once in a while, outlandish claims need to be addressed to ensure that reality-based facts win over fear, insecurity and hate. In response to a post about a woman whose inability to orgasm without a sex toy was hurting her boyfriend’s feelings, one commenter recently made some particularly ridiculous, utterly unhelpful statements — we break them down, one by one, below (without his, shall we say, colorful language).

Claim: Sex toys make women loose.
Reality: It’s pretty much the opposite. The vagina is not a cheap sock that goes limp with repeated use. It expands and contracts with arousal. The perineal muscles which surround it help maintain its integrity. So the more pleasure the area receives, with say a sex toy, the more workout those muscles get, the stronger they’ll be, and thus the more supportive they are of the area, the tighter they can contract, and the more responsive they become to stimulation. Win-win-win!

Claim: Men don’t want to be with women who use sex toys.
Reality: Smart people know that women who use sex toys are comfortable with their own sexuality, better understand how their bodies are built and work, know what they like, and are more successfully orgasmic — all things that make for better partner-sex. Men who are comfortable with their own sexuality will use sex toys with their partners for variety and fun without feeling threatened. Which is not to say that dangling a toy with “realistic” aesthetic details but “unrealistic” proportions in front of one’s self-conscious male partner is polite — in fact, it’s the epitome of insensitive rudeness. But a woman who uses her favorite toy, discretely if feelings require it, while finding some other accessory she and her partner can both enjoy can only improve their sex life.

Claim: Your vulva/vagina is your male partner’s property. AND: Men only like women for their genitals.
Reality: Do we even have to address this? It’s so tiresome, so transparent. We get it. You long for a time when men ruled the world, and women were their sex slaves. And now it kind of sucks that you have to deal with this upwardly mobile class of people who now have rights and power, often more power than you. And so, in a desperate attempt to slow down the inevitable rise of this group, you try to take them down a peg or two by insulting them. Are you twelve? It’s been quite a while, at least in this country, since women were married off as property. Yes, human rights are actually a good thing. Please acknowledge all the happy, well-adjusted grown-up men around you who interact, work, fall in love and/or have sex with women they view, value and respect as equal human beings. Both men and women are multi-dimensional — it’s not all about intercourse.

Claim: Sex toys make it harder for women to reach orgasm.
Reality: Many women require clitoral stimulation in order to reach orgasm. Unfortunately, it’s another of Mother Nature’s cruel jokes that the jackhammering many men prefer during intercourse avoids contact with the clitoris altogether. Add to that the great variability among women with how their genitals operate and respond to stimuli; the atrocious state of sexual education in this country; the pervasiveness of male-centric, unrealistic porn; the still-rampant sexism in our country which shames women’s sexuality and limits their sexual agency (Exhibit A: your comment) – and it’s a miracle women can orgasm at all! They need all the help they can get; sex toys offer that help. And often times, once a sex toy can finally get them to their happy place, they’re better equipped to experiment with other ways to find satisfaction, both alone and with a partner.

Dear Commenter, we condemn the straight woman (or women) who hurt, belittled or shamed you. They are not representative of our entire gender. Just as they should not speak ill or dismissively of the male member (as we’re assuming they did), neither should you speak so ill of women’s genitals. Both men and women, gay or straight or transgendered, are so much more than the sum of their sexual body parts. The more we all start thinking about sex with our heads instead of our junk, with our hearts instead of our hatred, the better we’ll all get along, both in and out of the bedroom. Here’s hoping you find someone who can love you for you, and vice versa.


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